Feasting for all

A melting pot of cultures, flavours, traditions and more, Christmas time is also an exercise in indulgence and deliciousness that’s not really restricted to any one community. Take archaeologist and culinary anthropologist Kurush Dalal, for example.

“Growing up in a Parsi family in South Bombay and spending my vacations in Bandra with my maternal grandparents has left behind a whole host of memories of Christmases past. My paternal grandma had two brothers who had married Roman Catholics.

The X’mas sweets that our East Indian friends sent over were the stuff of a young 'carboholics' dream. The marzipan strawberries, the kaju and milk sweets, the kulkuls, the newris (half-moon shaped pastry filled with coconut and dry fruits) and often a cellophane paper or foil-wrapped chocolate or two.

How I miss those today,” he exclaims, in between gulps of sherry, continuing, “As I grew up and grew older Christmas was about sipping a tiny glass of wine, then having a glass of egg-nog and finally graduating to a Shandy (half beer-half lemonade).

When I was about eight, my mum started making a typically English Christmas Pudding the recipe of which she modified from what she had eaten in England and this became a family tradition. My wife Rhea makes mum’s rich boozy X’mas pudding every year."

Goan home chef Jacinta Santos believes in generosity that goes along with this festival. "At home, we fed the entire building by making huge cauldrons of food for our building parties and neighbouring buildings. Now we have scaled it down.

But I still remember the guava cheese and newris. While I have my daughter and family coming over as well as some guests during Christmas week, good hearty food before a siesta is always a staple."

Pastry chef and entrepreneur Sharmeen Indorewala, treats her family and friends to one of her seasonal favourite cakes. “As an annual tradition we spend Christmas day with our close friend's family.

His mum whips up an incredible Christmas lunch and we eat dishes like stuffed chicken, beef roast, vindaloo and phugyas (East Indian Balloon Bread) at their beautifully set table. I'm usually in charge of dessert so last time I made my classic chocolate cake (a recipe I've taken years to work on!) and soon as we brought it to the table, my friend exclaimed, 'That looks like something out of a child's storybook!' That name has stuck and from now on, it's forever the 'Storybook Cake'.”

From confections to choirs and more, SoBo based entrepreneur Daniel Henriques has his voice heard at Christmas - literally. “I regularly sing in the Holy Name Cathedral choir as a bass voice.

Apart from my wife making sweets and my family putting up decorations, singing at the mass is a must.” Indeed, the choral singing at mass for this special service is an integral part of celebrations.

The ‘C’ in Christmas also stands for community. “My favourite memories of Christmas, whether it was going carol singing around the city in a big bus - right from the practices to the actual singing was so much fun, also coming together to make a giant 20-foot star to display outside our church. So many of us from our church community would come together after work or college to make this happen.

There is something powerful about communities coming together to celebrate and spread peace and harmony,” shares Priscilla Roxburgh, Protestant, director of communications at the Museum of Art and Photography.

However, not everyone has the opportunity to be with their family during this time of year. For them, memories and tastes hold a special place. Shares Syrian Christian Jacob Kadantot, a city-based HC advocate, “I wistfully remember my mother’s fresh appams and thick Kerala-style chicken stew, home-made on Christmas morning itself for freshness.

It takes a lot of dedication to make for a family of four because the appams, just like idlis and sannas, need to rise with help from the yeast. That was the first thing Mom would do upon waking - check if her mix was ready.

And we’d always get the appams traditionally made with fresh Kallu (toddy). No restaurant can give you that experience. It was something else altogether and made Christmas all the more special.”

Food is also a great catalyst for memories for Suraya Dias, former administrator of Campion School. “I prepare a rum plum cake months in advance, topping it up with rum every three months or so.

At our annual Christmas lunch, it would be served with a garnishing of apple slices. Along with vanilla ice cream; it was something my guests always looked forward to, along with the singsong sessions led by a relative on guitar.”

As greens bloom and autumn browns fade to December gold, traditions remain and re-bloom... Merry Christmas!